China is imposing draconian measures to slash birth rates among ethnic Uighurs as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population, according to a new investigation.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman responded on Monday by calling the news report “fake news”.
While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to an AP news agency investigation based on government statistics, state documents, and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members, and a former detention-camp instructor.
The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to what some experts are calling a form of “demographic genocide”.
China regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks and forces intrauterine devices, sterilisation, even abortion on hundreds of thousands, the interviews and data show.
The population-control measures are backed by mass detention both as a threat and as punishment for failure to comply. Having too many children is a major reason people are sent to detention camps, AP found, with parents of three or more children ripped away from their families unless they can pay huge fines.
Knock on the door
After Gulnar Omirzakh, a Chinese-born Kazakh, had her third child, the government ordered her to have an IUD implanted. Two years later, in January 2018, four officials in military camouflage came knocking at her door anyway. They gave Omirzakh, the penniless wife of a detained vegetable trader, three days to pay a $2,685 fine for having more than two children.
If she did not, they warned, she would join her husband and a million other members of ethnic minorities locked up in internment camps.
“God bequeaths children on you. To prevent people from having children is wrong,” said Omirzakh, who tears up even now thinking back to that day. “They want to destroy us as a people.”
Birth rates in the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar plunged by more than 60 percent from 2015 to 2018, the latest government statistics available. Across the Xinjiang region, birth rates continue to plummet, falling nearly 24 percent last year alone – compared with just 4.2 percent nationwide, statistics show.
The hundreds of millions of dollars the government pours into birth control has transformed Xinjiang from one of China’s fastest-growing regions to among its slowest in just a few years, according to new research by China scholar Adrian Zenz.